Islington Labour criticised for delaying by-election to replace outgoing transport chief Claudia Webbe
PUBLISHED: 10:31 24 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:33 28 January 2020
Islington Labour has been criticised for delaying the council by-election to replace the outgoing transport chief Claudia Webbe until May.
Cllr Webbe, the new MP for Leicester East, has stepped down from her executive role but will carry on representing Bunhill ward - 80 odd miles south of her new patch - until "spring", with her replacement decided on May 7.
The council says it wants to hold the vote on the same day as the London mayoral election to save on organising a costly by-election.
Islington Labour confirmed Cllr Webbe is still claiming her basic allowance of £10,519 for being a member, though it is not known if she will continue to do so until May.
A spokesperson said: "We're delighted Claudia has been elected as a member of parliament to serve the community in Leicester, where she was born and bred.
"Claudia stood down immediately from the executive. She has been a brilliant and pioneering member of the executive for many years, and has done so much to put Islington at the forefront of efforts to tackle the climate emergency.
"Claudia has also been a true champion for local residents in Bunhill as their local councillor, and will remain so until the spring."
Cllr Richard Watts, the council leader, told the Gazette last week: "I think we are conscious not least of the amount by-elections cost but also that voters seem to be pretty much saying to us they've had quite a lot of elections recently.
"Given one is coming up, it does feel to me like it's in the public interest to run that by-election alongside the London elections."
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But the Lib Dems believe it is a tactic to make sure Labour gets elected on the back of voters turning up to back Sadiq Khan.
Former Lib Dem council leader Terry Stacy also questioned how Claudia Webbe could represent two constituencies at once.
"I'm baffled at how she can serve two masters," he said. "Either Bunhill or Leicester East aren't getting 100% service.
"Richard Watts said he intends to hold it the same time as the mayoral election, thinking they will get in on the back of Sadiq Khan.
"But we don't think it's fair that Claudia Webbe is staying on or claiming her basic allowance. If she was MP in Islington South that wouldn't be a problem. But she's an MP in Leicester."
Flora Page, who lives in Bunhill, also took issue with the decision.
She said: "Those of us who live in Bunhill are only too aware of our need for committed local councillors. Islington Council has a 15-year plan for our neighbourhood which will mean constant construction for years and years. We already have to live with high levels of noise and dirt from the constant construction and there will be no relief from this for a long time to come.
"So where is our local councillor Claudia Webbe? I expect the people of Leicester assume she's there, whenever she's not in Parliament, since she's now their MP. But she can hardly be doing them justice as well as serving the people of Bunhill.
"How much cash does she want from tax-payers? How is she managing to represent us here in EC1 and the people of Leicester at the same time?
"Islington Council can't have it both ways - if you want to change our neighbourhood into a money-tree for the rest of the borough, at least give us three active 'gardeners'."
Cllr Webbe did not reply to the Gazette's request for a comment.